Color Me Happy!

Sweat Pea enjoying the exercise pen.

Since giving the rabbits their first clip, I’ve been procrastinating doing anything with their clipped baby coats.  I’d heard that angora rabbits first coats don’t really spin very well because they are so prone to matting or felting.  That certainly seemed true after all the mats I cut off of both of them prior to their clip!  So, I finally decided that I would use the wool for a felting project.  But what to felt…..After some preliminary research, I decided that I would try my hand at making some felted animals.  I found a fantastic website (www.woolpets.com) that had me itching to get started.  But, first things first.  To make a cute baby animal, I would need dyed wool and all I had was white and tan wool.  It was time to dye.  I’m sure that eventually I’ll try acid wash dyes.  But, the term “acid wash” doesn’t really seem all that pleasant.  So, I decided to try Kool-aid dyeing first.  Not only does it create bright, cheerful colors, but it makes your kitchen and wool smell like a delicious fruitstand.

After reading up on the subject I was even more excited.  The process seemed easy and relatively non-messy.  Because Kool-Aid is so acidic, you don’t even have to use a mordant.  Mordants are substances that are used to help the dye adhere to wool or fabric.  Disguting factoid:  In the good ol’ days, dyers used to use stale urine as a mordant.  So, I went out and bought every Kool-Aid flavor available at Kroger.  I was bummed not to find a blue color.  Apparently Kool-Aid used to make a blue flavor that created a beautiful shade of turquoise in wool but it tasted like cough medicine so they discontinued it.  Just my luck.  Then, I began the process.  First you have to wash the wool with a mild detergent.  (I skipped this step with my first batch and quick learned that if you don’t wet the wool previously to adding it to the dye, you still have lots of air pockets in the wool which prevent it from becoming fully immersed in the dye.  Thus, I ended up with a really uneven dye.)

Next, you start some water boiling in a pot and add your Kool-Aid.  As you would expect, the more Kool-Aid you add, the brighter the color.  For a more muted color, use less Kool-Aid or more water.  Then you add your wool.  Only touch the wool enough to cover it with the dye.  (I also made the mistake of stirring the first batch too much and patches of the wool felted.  Doh! )   Let the wool and dye come to a slow boil and then turn off the heat and cover the pot.  It usually takes about 15-30 minutes for the wool to absorb all of the dye.  You may need to lightly “stir” the wool while you wait to ensure coverage.

My first batch, grape, turned out pretty unevenly dyes as I said.  The second batch, cherry, was perfect.  My last batch, dark cherry, was even better.  Because I didn’t card the wool (a process where you pass raw wool back and forth between to slicker-type brushes to ensure that all of the fibers and running the same direction) first, there was no way that the wool was going to dye perfectly evenly.  But, I actually like the small variations in color.  I think it will help me to create a more realistic felted animal too because it will add shading.  Before I can make a felted animal, I still need a bigger color palette.  I still have orange Kool-Aid left to try another day.  I’m also interested in trying to dye from some natural roots, flowers, plants, etc.  I’ve also heard rumor that Kroger sells a blue powdered drink like Kool-Aid.  I’ll have to stalk the wild blueberry drink……